By DAVID IGNELL
My last two articles about AK Mom’s family have focused primarily on George, her second oldest son with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and autism, who Office of Children’s Services continues to place in inappropriate foster homes.
OCS’s carelessness has led to George being put in highly vulnerable situations trying to get home to his mother, AK Mom.
Moved From a Loving Home into an Abusive Home
This article will focus mostly on his older brother, David, who will turn 18 years old later this year. As you’ll read, OCS seems determined to set David up for failure as an adult before he ages out of the foster system.
David was born with FASD and later diagnosed with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. AK Mom took him home from the hospital when he was just two days old, adopted him, and loved on him daily for the next 15 years.
A few years after David was born, his biological mom had another son named Damien, also with FASD. Both the biological mom and the Kotzebue tribe wanted AK Mom to adopt Damien so the two half-brothers could be together. OCS was opposed to this, however.
With support from the Native American Rights Fund, the attorneys for the tribe made it possible for AK Mom to adopt Damien in 2011. For the next 10 years both brothers lived happily together in AK Mom’s loving home.
That abruptly changed on April 3, 2021. The last two years in OCS custody has been hell for David. He was quickly separated from Damien and his other siblings. He was taken off his prescribed medications for his disorders. He’s been moved several times from home to home and school to school. In one home David was physically abused. One of his foster parents shoved him, called him a “little s**t,” and offered him marijuana before he was 16 years old.
OCS abuses its power to remove children from homes of love and put them into houses of drugs.
OCS limits David’s family time with AK Mom to a maximum of two visits a week, but sometimes it’s only one or even none. On Wednesdays, David is allotted 10-15 minutes to interact with AK Mom via Zoom, provided he doesn’t express any negative feelings about OCS or the miserable situation they’ve put him in.
The Guardian Ad Litem moderating the call will allow David to stay on longer if he wants to say hi to one of his siblings during their allotted time with AK Mom.
On Fridays, David’s family is allowed to meet in person for 1.5 hours with a supervisor present. But that’s only if OCS or the supervisor feel like it. Last week they cancelled the in-person visit a couple hours before it was to occur. OCS has been jerking the family around like this for 2 years.
OCS tells citizens their goal is to work towards family reunification, but their actions prove otherwise.
Sex Education without Parental Consent
Two weeks ago, David didn’t log on for the weekly Zoom call. It was supposed to be a special call because it was also Damien’s 12th birthday. But David decided to skip it because OCS offered him $200 to attend some “life skills” classes offered on the UAA campus instead.
One of those life skills classes turned out to be “Sex Education” with a focus on LGBTQ issues.
David later bragged about getting $200 to take this class, apparently forgetting that some of the money was for two other classes he took called “Resource List Activity” and “Career Inventory”.
All David had to do for each class was sit down and watch a video and afterwards answer three questions. Easy money, but here’s the kicker: The sex education class paid twice as much as the other two classes.
In addition, the compensation for sex education was immediate gratification in the form of a Walmart gift card. Afterwards, OCS took David to Walmart so he could spend his gift card. OCS told David he’d have to wait for his money on the other two classes though. A check would be sent to him in the mail.
No wonder David liked the sex education class so much. Heck, can more of us sign up for this class and get Walmart gift cards?
A puzzling aspect to OCS’ program to teach their views of sex to foster kids like David is that they made no attempt to obtain AK Mom’s parental consent for the class.
House Bill 105, currently pending in the House Education Committee, is supposed to place “matters of personal identification and sexual education directly in the hands of parents at the local level,” according to the sponsor’s statement.
Some readers may counter that HB 105 isn’t a law yet. Technically that is true, but the bill comes directly from Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who also oversees OCS. The governor won’t respond to me, so perhaps some readers will want to speculate who’s to blame for this inconsistent policy.
Another consequence of OCS’ bribe was that Damien never got to hear his brother wish him a “Happy Birthday.” OCS has grown accustomed to victimizing Damien. The agency has prevented him from attending the family in-person visits since last August. They’re punishing him for being angry at his family’s separation. OCS’ actions mock their stated objective of family reunification.
OCS trains foster kids to fail?
Some of my sources believe OCS wants foster children to fail as adults. For boys to graduate to prisons and mental hospitals, and girls to deliver babies into the greedy hands of the foster care system. This theory makes a lot of sense when you start thinking about the hundreds of millions of dollars at stake annually and the businesses that have been built on this pipeline of money.
Take David’s education for example. Despite his FASD (which is brutal on math skills), autism, and ADHD, David was doing pretty good in his Christian school before being kidnapped by OCS. For the third quarter ending March 3, 2021, he received scores of 89 in both English and History, and scores of 70 in math and science.
OCS apparently thought so little of these actual life skills that when they kidnapped him on April 3, they did not allow him to return to his Christian school to finish out the quarter, which ended on May 20. Instead, David spent the rest of the fourth quarter being bounced around several different homes where he was abused and offered weed. Could it be that OCS has something against Christian schools too?
The next fall, the OCS enrolled him in an Anchorage public high school and then a month later transferred him to a Mat-su area public high school. That semester his previous B+ in English turned to an F. His B+ in history also turned into an F. His C in science turned into an F. The only substantive class he didn’t fail was math, where he got a D.
The next semester he was transferred to a third school where either he did slightly better, or their standards were lower. He got all D’s except for English where he had a C.
David’s scores for 11th grade are unknown to AK Mom. She’s been trying to find out for months, but OCS won’t tell her. They ignore the parent just like they do the son’s education on subjects that will help him succeed as an adult.
Federal Class Action Lawsuit, Kim Kovol, and MMIW
One source for my articles on David and George has been the Amended Class Action Complaint filed on July 15, 2022, in Federal District Court (Case No. 3:22-cv-00129-JMK.) I urge readers to locate this document online and learn in paragraphs 74-100 how David and his siblings were treated by OCS in just the first year of their kidnapping.
The purpose of this class action lawsuit, brought by four law firms including three in Alaska, is to rescue kids like David, George, and their 3 siblings from OCS abuse. Yet the Dunleavy Administration is trying to dismiss the lawsuit. All of us need to start demanding an answer from the Governor — why is his administration opposed to protecting Alaska’s children?
The acting commissioner in charge of OCS the last nine months has been Kim Kovol. According to her resume, for the two years immediately prior to that Kovol was a special assistant and policy advisor to the governor for a “social services portfolio.” She also “successfully launched the People’s First Initiative,” which among other things “increased supports for youth in foster care.”
These words aren’t supported by her actions. I hope our legislators will start asking some tough questions before the joint session convenes to vote on Kovol’s confirmation as commissioner.
A hearing on Kovol’s confirmation was scheduled for March 21 before the House Committee on Health and Social Services. I felt the stories of David and George, as well as her opposition to the federal class action suit, required a challenge to the claims in her resume. On the morning of the 20th, I sent Kovol an email asking if she’d like to meet with me before the confirmation hearing; she replied no.
My testimony before the Committee focused on these issues. I also questioned if Kovol had played a role in suppressing Thomas Garber’s requested grand jury investigation into the OCS. I brought up the story of Katelynn Shelhamer and held her picture up to the camera.
Katelynn Shelhamer was murdered in Anchorage in 2021, shortly after she turned 18. According to a post from a friend, she had been in OCS custody and sex trafficked since at least 14 years of age. The friend said that after getting out of OCS custody, Katelynn was turning her life around. Was she murdered because she was escaping the vicious cycle and posed a risk to the system? An independent grand jury with a special prosecutor is the only government body in Alaska that can properly investigate this question.
On March 22, I sat in on the House Tribal Affairs Special Committee meeting. The entire session was devoted to missing and murdered indigenous women like Katelynn. One of the invited speakers, Tribal Judge Debra O’Gara, testified that Anchorage is one of the most dangerous places in the nation for indigenous people. She also testified that “foster children are at a high risk of being targeted by traffickers” and that “indigenous people, both men and women and boys and girls, are being targeted at a higher rate than any other race.”
These facts highlight the dangerous environment that OCS has placed David, George, and their siblings into. If you’re unfamiliar with my first two stories about George, its only by the grace of God that he has not become another trafficking statistic.
Kovol was also in attendance at this meeting when Judge O’Gara spoke those words. Afterwards, I again asked Kovol if we could talk, but she said no and walked away. Kovol’s refusal to engage on these critical issues is extremely troubling, especially since OCS is daily exposing AK Mom’s children to these heightened risks. Every legislator should be asking these tough questions of Kovol, especially those in the Senate who have showed no concern over these issues.
Recently the House Judiciary Committee devoted over two weeks of its time focused singularly on how to stop sex and human trafficking in Alaska. What OCS is doing and not doing, as demonstrated in the case of AK Mom’s family and others, must be included in the legislative record.
Plea to Governor Dunleavy
Gov. Dunleavy: Last week you and your wife each met AK Mom at public events. At your Prayer Breakfast she gave your staff a stack of her 24 prayer requests that have been distributed by others around the state and nation this past year. You know the people standing at her side are of excellent character and judging from the wide smile on your face that day, you seemed to think AK Mom is a quality individual also.
Governor, besides Acting Commissioner Kovol, you have the ability to pick up the phone right now and order AK Mom’s children to be returned to her tomorrow. There’s absolutely nothing in your way to impede justice. If you don’t and any innocent blood of her children is shed, it will be on your hands.
Make the call now, Governor.
Allow George to be home in time for his birthday this week and to finally open those presents he’s been waiting two years for. Allow AK Mom to joyfully bake a birthday cake that her family can take to church this Easter Sunday in celebration with their friends there.
I have yet to write about AK Mom’s other two children, Karen and Lawrence, who also have FASD. They share the same biological mother and father, both of whom wanted AK Mom to raise their children and adopt them. Re-unite Karen and Lawrence with the rest of their siblings.
Give AK Mom the support she needs rather than allowing OCS to continue destroying this once remarkable family. You should name her the Alaska Mom of the Year for her remarkable work with these children and standing strong in the face of OCS’ adversity. Let my next story focusing on Karen and Lawrence be about the happiness and safety you’ve returned to their lives.
Governor, on Friday morning when I was reading Psalms 144 in my daily devotions, you came to mind. A Psalm of David — I urge you to read it and find courage to sing a new song to God, to be rescued from right hands that swear false oaths, to enable our sons in their youth to be like well-nurtured plants and our daughters to be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.
For the people to not be led into bondage, to hear no cries of protest in our cities’ open spaces. For the people of Alaska to be happy.
David Ignell was born and raised in Juneau, where he currently resides. He holds a law degree from University of San Diego and formerly practiced as a licensed attorney in California. He has experience as a volunteer analyst for the California Innocence Project, and is currently a forensic journalist and author of a recent book on the Alaska Grand Jury.